During my left coast #American university days, sage professors and teachers’ assistants (grad students) were beating drums for independent organic lifestyles, critical thinking as a way of life, and peace as the only solution. Today, except for my lingering buddies from SDS who continue to offer truth in the classroom, I find most of advanced academia unholy dedicated to the rigged system. What happened? How did intelligent, supposedly enlightened and overly published men and women be so easily co-opted?
Recently, my niece left her university teaching position to focus primarily on her own creative endeavors, at her studio, along with her pop-up events and hipster crafts trade shows. We never discussed the specifics, as I received the info second hand (her father). Yet, knowing myself is like knowing our gene pool. I am fairly sure Natalie Davis (see link below), artist and communitarian, decided the drooling jaws were clamping down too tightly from an over reaching administration. Her graduate piece at Cranbrook was a sewn twenty-foot long banner of baby heads and road bombs cleverly made to look like a wallpaper design from the Arts & Crafts movement.
I am also convinced one must dance a jig to achieve tenure selling one’s soul semester by semester until the faux holy water of conformity cements the brain shut and the spirit is on life support. Here safe – residing in a quiet soul bender inside going-no-where’s-ville (on and off campus) is the state of American higher education? The un-sanitized, yet 24/7 watched, animated hall locker is designed for expanding adherence to the status quo, rather than the glory of aesthetically and philosophically pushing the cultural envelope.
Natalie continues to teach with her traveling workshops within the Austin based art scene and inside chic arts communities around Texas and the other western states. Although, her upbringing was in NYC, so she also has a resonance to the city they named twice, traveling there for shows and artsy connections.
Too recently, Natalie spent a day with me, as we survived the crisis of a heart condition I knew – but denied. Hours and hours were spent with me hooked to various body hoses and electro patches sniggering one liners and her humbly working on a Florence Nightingale medal. Later, she told me it was, “a fun day.”
I could have died, so my working theory was if I told funny true to life stories and made comments to make her and me laugh, I would survive western medicine. And, so we did. Learning this snide trick as a field correspondent from Scotch-sopped mentors while reporting the atrocities we do to each other was life giving – if not sustaining.
Spending lifetimes inside news rooms, ad agencies, print shops, production studios, the back room (commercial kitchen) of my espresso cafe, and alone writing or gardening and birding, plus in the wobbly arena of politics for three decades, I grew my inbred humor. IF one can not laugh at the madness of the moment stuck in circumstances beyond our control, one becomes a depressed drunken victim to it. God gifted us humor to remind our soulfully lame species, we are not in charge.
I am a prankster, as a learned survival technique. But, in the midnight hours what wins the day is looking into your cardiologist heart and finding blessed compassion, even if reclarient on both our sides of the here and now.
For me, it is disappointing academia has gone prune-like. Professors have shrunk in social consciousness in favor of consumerism (“we educate you for a societal acceptable career”) and never ending wars? There is Greek triumph to cookie cutter education, if one subscribes to what we call cog-living holding shopping bags.
I am a radical, a free radical. My peg is not round in a square hole. It is fractal within a cosmos so remarkable we barely get a glimpse of it even with the latest optics, eh, Professor Timothy Ferris and Professor Richard Alford? And, so is yours. LOL